The very last batches of Polaroid instant film passed their expiration date in late 2009, and even if you’ve kept some in the fridge, it has begun to go sour. As instant film gets old, it first shifts in color, generally toward a pinkish-yellow, then to brown; then it starts to get erratic, failing to process evenly; then you get big undeveloped patches of negative; then you get nothing.

Those final batches of film, kept cold, are now approaching the end of their reliable life. So Impossible has commissioned five photographers to shoot off nearly the last of their Spectra stock, and the results are on view at the company’s gallery on lower Broadway. Two of the artists are household names (the A-list photographer Mary Ellen Mark and the actor-Yalie-writer-polymath James Franco) but the other three more than hold up their end of the deal.

By Jennifer Juniper Stratford, via The Impossible Project. (Click to enlarge.) I'm pretty sure that's a ’61 Cadillac.

Web page devoted to the show here; if you’re in New York, it’s in Impossible’s gallery and shop at 425 Broadway, near Canal Street, on the fifth floor. I have to say that the show (through no fault of its own) leaves me with mixed feelings, paradoxically because the photographs are so damn charming. As much as I admire Impossible’s product thus far—especially the latest iteration—seeing even aged Polaroid film reminds me how effortless it was to use, and how extraordinary. Shows like this get me fulminating about the greed and shortsightedness that led to the near-death of this remarkable invention. It didn’t have to happen (my book explains exactly how it did), and it shouldn’t have.

Fortunately, they’re great pictures, which goes a long way toward cheering me up afterward.

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